State expands storm reviews

The home inspection program will resume within two weeks.

By Ivan Penn
Published April 11, 2007

After a five-month hiatus, the state plans to resume its free home inspections program within two weeks to test residential dwellings for hurricane preparedness.

The program, called My Safe Florida Home, will use 11 firms and expand statewide. The firms have been divided up among four regions of the state - the Panhandle, North Florida, Central Florida and South Florida - to conduct the inspections.

With hurricane season less than two months away, the announcement Tuesday could not have come too soon.

Each firm has pledged to conduct a minimum of 1,000 inspections a week after a startup period that ends in late June or early July.

"These inspection firms had to meet the strictest criteria in order to be considered for this program," Chief Financial Office Alex Sink said in a statement. "We want homeowners to be highly satisfied with the services they receive from the My Safe Florida Home program."

The Legislature created My Safe Florida Home almost a year ago as a way to strengthen residential dwellings against hurricanes and help reduce insurance costs.

The program offers free home inspections and up to a $5,000 matching grant for qualified homeowners. To qualify, a home must be a homesteaded, single-family, detached dwelling with an insured value of less than $500,000.

During its initial phase, the $250-million program was criticized for its sluggish pace.

About 14,000 inspections were completed in 17 counties during the pilot phase of My Safe Florida Home, and 19 homeowners in seven counties have received more than $47,000 in grant money.

There are 50,000 people on a waiting list for inspections.

With 11 firms conducting a total of 11,000 inspections a week, that list is expected to be cleared before the end of summer.

Sink stopped taking new applications in January when she took office.

But the program will begin accepting new applicants by telephone or over the Internet by the end of April.

Inspections will generally be conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. Some larger counties might take longer to be served than lesser populated areas, officials said.

"We wanted to make sure that we could serve as many people before hurricane season starts," said Tara Klimek, a Sink spokeswoman. "The first priority goes to the people who signed up during the pilot phase of the program."

Inspectors review seven areas of the home: the roof deck attachment, secondary water barrier, code-plus roof coverings and attachment methods, bracing gable end walls, strengthening roof-to-wall connections, protecting or replacing window openings, protecting or replacing doors.

The firms and the regions they will cover include:

- Panhandle Region 1 - AmeriPro Inspection and Thomas Enterprising.

- North Florida (Region 2) - AmeriPro, Skye Tec and Alltech.

- Central Florida (Region 3) - Florida Real Property Administrators, JVI Inspections, Professional Service Industries and Home Inspections.

- South Florida (Region 4) - Applied Research Associates, W.B. Sanders, Don Meyler Inspections and Skye Tec.

Ivan Penn covers consumer issues. He can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332.

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To learn more

For more information about the My Safe Florida Home program visit www.mysafefloridahome.com or call toll-free 1-800-342-2762.